Minister of Health and Community Services Jerome Kennedy was in Baie Verte on Monday, August 9, to announce significant funding for the Baie Verte Peninsula Health Centre. (BVPHC)Joined by area MHA Kevin Pollard, Central Health CEO Karen McGrath, as well as municipal and hospital administrators, Mr. Kennedy announced that government is providing $319,000 in funding for the hospital to be used in various capacities.
"The Williams' government is investing in key community healthcare centres throughout the province," the minister said in a press release issued prior to the announcement. "The Baie Verte Peninsula Health Centre delivers essential services to this region. Through vital long-term care beds, outpatient and primary healthcare services, residents can avail of healthcare services close to their homes and communities."
A break-down of the $319,000 funding goes like this: $195,000 towards the creation of a Therapeutic Wander Garden Project; $71,000 for the replacement of kitchen steamers, drug carts, IV pumps and audiology equipment; and, $53,000 for laboratory equipment including centrifuges.
It was excitement all around when the announcement came down on Monday, with applause coming from the crowd of area mayors and councillors, in particular, when funding for the Wander Garden was announced - a project that has been three years in the making said Tracey Comeau, director of health services.
Mr. Pollard said he is "delighted that our government is making significant investments in health care infrastructure - especially in rural, remote areas of our province. It's reflective of our government's commitment to providing quality accessible health care to everyone in the province."
In addition to Mr. Pollard's comments, Baie Verte deputy mayor Gerry Burke said the funding announcement "will enhance our health care infrastructure and ensure our peninsula will continue to receive the care which we are accustomed to."
The director of health services, Ms. Comeau, said the idea for a wander garden was a product of teamwork between the staff of the Long Term Care Facility after realizing more and more patients were being admitted with varying forms of dementia, along with some challenging behaviour such as wandering and exit seeking.
"The problem here," said Ms. Comeau "is that we have a huge property, so if a resident gets out who can't be out by themselves, then staff are forced to go outside and try to bring them back in. When in reality what they often want to do is to just go sit by themselves and get out of the environment they're in."
This is where the plan and idea for the wander garden was conceived. The goal is to develop an area directly adjacent to the long-term care facility which will allow residents to venture outside to a safe, enclosed area that will allow them to enjoy fresh air and all the amenities which come with the garden.
The hospital is breaking new ground with this project both in a literal and metaphorical sense. The health minister noted that he has yet to see a project or facility like this anywhere else in the province.
"This wander garden is quite an amazing concept and I haven't seen one before in terms of delivery of long term care services, so I think it's going to be very exciting. I'm really excited to see this concept and it's certainly something I'm going to be very interested in, how it develops and how it works."
Ms. Comeau said the funding received from government will be able to aid in the completion of the first two phases of the project, which is scheduled to begin in spring of 2011, with only phase three left to complete after that.
In addition to money from government, funds have been raised over the past three years through various community support ventures.
"Staff has done various fundraisers," she said. "We've also had great support from the community, various businesses have made donations, and people are contributing memorials, along with a recent $10,000 grant from United Way."
The announcement, however, was not met without some criticism from some peninsula political leaders.
Burlington mayor George Kelly said while the wander garden will be a great addition to the BVPHC, the substantial funding could have been used in other areas.
"Baie Verte hospital needs many things, and this money could have helped in providing more services to the area. No doubt the garden will be great, but what about something like more beds, or a dialysis unit?," he questioned.
Ms. Comeau, however, stated that the wander garden meets the hospital's greatest need as of right now because of the numbers of dementia patients.
The hospital has a total of 11 patients in long-term care who suffer from some form of dementia.
She added that according to the Alzheimer's Association of Canada, people are suffering from that disease and other dementia at a younger age than ever.
"Currently there are around 570,000 Canadians with some form of dementia," she said. "Of those, 75,000 are under the age of 65. Looking at the demographic of the Baie Verte Peninsula from the last census in 2006, there were 5,200 people living here and 790 of those are already over the age of 65, and that's probably increased over the last four years. So that tells us there are going to be more and more dementias."
Given these statistics, Ms. Comeau said there is currently no future plans to expand the capacity of the long-term care facility at the BVPHC. The facility has seven acute care and 19 long-term care beds.
While there are challenges, and definitely more room for improvements, said Mr. Pollard, he is still confident in what government is doing in terms of providing health care on the Baie Verte Peninsula.
Minister Kennedy reiterated similar sentiments.
"The healthcare system is one we are extremely proud of but we realize there are still areas we have to work on."
Baie Verte Peninsula Correspondent